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Sovereign Coin Designs


Jump to a specific monarch by clicking one of the links below:

George III | George IV | William IV | Victoria (Young, Shield) | Victoria (Young, St George) | Victoria (Jubilee) | Victoria (Old Head) | Edward VII | George V Edward VIII | George VI | Elizabeth II (Young) | Elizabeth II (Decimal) | Elizabeth II (Third Head) | Elizabeth II (Fourth Head) | Elizabeth II (Fifth Head)


The Gold Sovereign is the oldest British coin still produced by the Royal Mint. Sovereigns were first made in 1817 following the Great Recoinage a year earlier.

Sovereign coins feature the current reigning monarch on the obverse side, and the St George design on the reverse, with a few limited edition variations on this theme. Gold Sovereigns were formerly circulated but are now only available in bullion or proof editions.

Modern day gold Sovereign coins followed on from old English gold sovereigns, first introduced under King Henry VII in 1489. Coins between the two versions of the Sovereign included the Crown Gold, Unites, Laurels, Broads, and eventually Guineas. .

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Sovereign specifications:

Gold Sovereign coins weigh 7.98 grams. They contain 7.3224 grams of fine gold, hence the 22 carat purity, and they are produced at 22.05mm in diameter and with a 1.52mm thickness.

Please note that these specifications can fractionally vary depending on the age and condition of the coin.

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Sovereign size variations:

There are several types of gold Sovereign based upon their size, including the quarter, half, double, and quintuple sizes.

The smaller sizes are available in bullion and proof finishes, while the larger are proof-only editions, such as the 2005 proof Horatio Nelson quintuple Sovereign.

For specifications of these coins, click here.

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Sovereign reverse designs:

Gold Sovereigns feature the traditional St George and the Dragon reverse image. This was designed by Italian sculptor and artist Benedetto Pistrucci, who came to London in 1816 to show off his abilities.

Following a few commissions he was approached by the Master of the Mint to produce a design for the new British coinage. Pistrucci completed the design and even engraved the dies himself due to the Mint’s engravers not being able to accurately replicate his work.


1817 – St George and the Dragon

The original Sovereign design had a thick border bearing the latin ’HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’, which translates as “Evil unto him who thinks evil of it”.

The design is St George riding a horse and trampling a dragon. The saint wears a plumed helmet, cape, and wields a broken spear.

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1821 – St George and the Dragon (remodel)

In 1821 Pistrucci’s design was altered. The latin on the thick border was removed, meaning Pistrucci could produce a larger image of St George and in greater detail.

Another small change to the coin was the broken spear being replaced by a mythical sword, known as Ascalon. .

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1825 – George IV's Crowned shield of the Royal Arms

King George IV was keen on a new set of coin designs following his coronation. French engraver and medallist Jean Baptiste Merlen was commissioned in 1823 and after two years of work the new shield Sovereign design was born; a style that would last for almost half a century.

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1830 – William IV’s Shield

Five years later and King William came to the British throne. Once again the Paris Mint’s Jean Baptiste Merlen was hired, this time to update his previous shield design made for George IV.

The new design bore cleaner lines and more detail on the Coat of Arms than previously.

King William was the only monarch not to feature St George on a gold Sovereign at any time during his reign. .

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1838 – The Victoria Shield

For one last time, Jean Baptiste Merlen produced a shield design for the Sovereign reverse. The coin, released following Queen Victoria's coronation, had a simpler Royal Coat of Arms, as well as a smaller crown and a wreath flanking.

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For our full range of Queen Victoria shield back Sovereigns, click here.


1871 – Victoria’s St George

In 1871, a remarkable 46 years after Merlen's first shield design for the Royal Mint, the gold Sovereign was altered on its reverse, going back to Pistrucci's St George and the Dragon artwork.

This same design, with minor tweaks due to coin manufacturing changes over the years, still appears on Sovereigns to this day.

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For our full range of Queen Victoria young head Sovereigns bearing St George and the Dragon on the reverse, click here.


1989 – 500th Anniversary of the Sovereign

The old English gold Sovereign was first produced on October 28th, 1489 for King Henry VII. To commemorate 500 years since that inception date, the Royal Mint hired Bernard Sindall to create a special edition coin for their collection.

The main focal point of the design is the double Tudor rose, as well as a the large crown on the Royal Coat of Arms. Later sovereign coins bore more modest crowns but the aim was to mimic the hammered coins made during the Tudor years.

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Click here to see the obverse side featuring Queen Elizabeth II.


2002 – The Golden Jubilee Sovereign

The next anniversary celebrated was the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

A shield back design was made by Timothy Noad for the Mint, as an homage to Queen Victoria's shield back Sovereign. The Coat of Arms is smart and well defined, whilst a small crown and large wreaths sit around it.

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Click here to buy the 2002 Jubilee Sovereign.


2005 – Noad’s St George

Timothy Noad was commissioned once again in 2005, to produce his own take on St George slaying the dragon for a modern version of the gold Sovereign.

Noad's design was a closer look at each St George, the dragon, and his horse, providing a busy but larger design. In the artwork, St George and his steed are dressed in a medieval fashion, and indeed the dragon looks more in line with artwork of beasts from that period of history.

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Click here to view the 2005 proof half Sovereign, complete with Royal Mint box and Certificate of Authentication.


2012 – The Diamond Jubilee Sovereign

For the Diamond Jubilee, sculptor Paul Day was chosen as the winner of a Royal Mint competition to design the new Sovereign reverse, marking 60 years of the Queen's reign.

Day's design fill the coin more than previous designs and sees a rather unsightly dragon - deliberately made more reptilian - being slain by St George with a large spear or lance.

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Interested in this coin? Why not click here to see the 2012 Diamond Jubilee gold half Sovereign.


2017 – 200th Anniversary of the Modern Sovereign

To mark 200 years of the modern gold Sovereign, the Royal Mint added a small shield emblem with the number 200 above it to the coin, situated just left of the year date.

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Demand for this coin is high due to its anniversary status but p lease be aware that the Royal Mint are no longer producing this coin.

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Sovereign mint marks:

Throughout its history, the Royal Mint has produced gold Sovereigns at many refineries globally. While most coins were minted in London and Llantrisant, many do exist bearing special lettering above the year of production - an identifying mark used to trace a coin's origin.

Some of the rarer coins bear these mint marks in a different place on the coin, whether beneath a monarch's neck, a floral wreath, or a shield emblem.

London & Llantrisant: 1817 – 1917, 1925, 1957 – Present: No Mint Mark

Australia: 1855 – 1931: S (Sydney), M (Melbourne), P (Perth)

India: 1918: I (For India; minted in Bombay)

Canada: 1908 – 1919: C (For Canada, minted in Ottawa)

South Africa: 1923 – 1932: SA (For South Africa, minted in Pretoria)

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For more detailed information about Sovereign mint marks, click here.

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The Monarchs:

As listed at the top of this infopage, here is a chronological list of all the British monarchs and their Sovereigns since the coins first came into existence in 1817.

To view our range of gold Sovereigns by year, click here.


George III – reigned 1760 to 1820

Gold Sovereigns were revived towards the end of King George III’s reign. His design was a right-facing portrait on the front, and the thick-rimmed St George and the Dragon design by Pistrucci on the back.

The coin bears the latin ’HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE’, which translates as “Evil unto him who thinks evil of it”.

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George IV – reigned 1820 to 1830

Unlike George III's coin, the George IV Gold Sovereign abandoned the thick coin border to allow larger portraits of both George on the obverse, and St George on the reverse.

To distinguish the King and the former King, George IV’s portrait faces to the left. The updated St George by Pistrucci is also present.

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There are two versions of George IV Gold Sovereigns:

Laureate Head (wreath) – 1821 to 1825

Bare Head – 1825 to 1830

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William IV – reigned 1830 to 1837

There were two Sovereign designs for King William IV, but both existed at the same time and for the same lifespan. The fractional difference was the expression on the King's face; one with a stern expression and one without.

A few proof Gold Sovereigns were produced in 1830, but the total is unknown. This coin is extremely rare, and less than a handful have ever been auctioned.

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Victoria – reigned 1837 to 1901

There were four different Gold Sovereign designs during Queen Victoria's long reign.

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Young Head Victoria with the Shield reverse (1837 – 1887)

This portrait of Victoria is the youngest. A newly coronated Queen appears on the front, and Merlen’s Royal Coat of Arms are on the back.

Most of the Sovereigns were produced in London, though production expanded to Sydney and later Melbourne. No coins were made outside of London until 1871.

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Years not produced: 1840, 1867, 1876, 1875-1887 (London)

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Young Head Victoria with the St George reverse (1871 – 1887)

The Royal Mint altered the Victoria Sovereigns in 1871, reverting to the traditional St George and the Dragon design. The portrait of Victoria is very similar to the first coin, but slightly more mature a portrait.

Production took place in London, Melbourne and Sydney, but the Perth Mint site did not open in time for this coin.

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Jubilee Head Victoria (1887 – 1893)

The young head Gold Sovereigns were halted in 1887 in line with the Queen's Golden Jubilee. The new portrait reflected the Queen's true age and her stature as a long-reigning monarch.

The design is considered the definitive image of how Queen Victoria was seen across the globe, and it was designed by medallist and sculptor Joseph Edgar Boehm.

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Years not produced: 1893 (London)

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Old Head Victoria (1893 – 1901)

The fourth and final portrait of Queen Victoria was commonly referred to as the 'Old Head'. The image is definitely the oldest one of Victoria and, designed by Thomas Brock, it was intended to reflect her maturity and grandmother status - both for her family and the British Empire as a whole.

The angle of Queen Victoria is different to traditional side-facing portraits. The tilt allows greater vision of her necklace, but also the tiara - believed to be the one made by Prince Albert, her late husband - and widow’s veil are more detailed.

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Years not produced: 1897 (London), 1893-1898 (Perth)


Edward VII – reigned 1901 to 1910

There was only on Gold Sovereign produced during Edward VII's reign. The Royal Mint opted for the old style of side portrait, with the engraving detailing the King's beard, moustache and hair.

The latin inscription hugging the edge of the Sovereign says EDWARDVS VII D: G: BRITT: OMN: REX F: D: IND: IMP, which means Edward VII, King of all Britons, Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India by the Grace of God.

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Years not produced: 1902-1907 (Canada)


George V – reigned 1910 to 1936

George V had the most unusual reign of any monarch with regards the production of Gold Sovereigns. The Royal Mint's output was impacted by the First World War and, by the end of his reign, the beginnings of the second.

Gold Sovereigns were produced in the most mints ever during King George's reign: London, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Ottawa, Bombay, and Pretoria all supplied Sovereigns across the world.

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Years not produced: 1918-1920, 1922-1924, 1926-1936 (London), 1927-1936 (Sydney),
1932-1936 (Melbourne), 1912, 1915, 1920-1936 (Canada), 1925, 1932-1936 (Perth),
1911-1922 & 1933-1936 (South Africa). Sovereigns in Bombay, India were only produced in 1918.


Edward VIII – reigned January 1936 to December 1936 (abdicated)

No sovereigns were made during Edward VIII’s brief reign.


George VI – reigned 1936 to 1952

No sovereigns were made during George VI’s reign.


Elizabeth II – reigned 1952 to Present Day

Queen Elizabeth II may have been coronated in 1952, but the first Gold Sovereign of her rule came in 1957 - driven by demand from the Middle East and Asia.

Other than specific commemorative editions, all Gold Sovereigns bearing Elizabeth II's portrait on the obverse side have Pistrucci's St George on the reverse.

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First Portrait: Young Elizabeth (1957 – 1970)

The first Gold Sovereign made during Queen Elizabeth's reign was the only one not produced since decimalisation. It was created five years after her coronation and sculpted by Mary Gillick.

The portrait sees a young Elizabeth wearing the Laureate crown, and the latin DEI GRATIA REGINA F.D. circles the coin - literally translated as 'By the Grace of God, Queen’ and ‘Defender of the Faith’.

Coins from 1957 specifically have a finer milled edge than other Sovereigns.

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Years not produced: 1960-1961, 1969-1970

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Second Portrait: Decimal Elizabeth (1974 – 1984)

Decimalisation in the UK was introduced in 1970-71, though the second portrait was trialled on 5p and 10p coins from 1968 onwards.

Sculptor Arnold Machin was chosen by the Royal Mint to design the Queen's new portrait, and in his image we can see Elizabeth wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara (a wedding gift from her grandmother).

Production started in London but had moved to the Llantrisant facility in South Wales by the time the coin's production finished.

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Years not produced: 1970-1973, 1975, 1977, 1983-1984 (Bullion)

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To view the 1989 special edition Sovereign reverse, click here.

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Third Portrait: PROOF ONLY (1985 – 1997)

The third edition of Gold Sovereigns to bear Elizabeth II's portrait were issued by the Royal Mint in proof-only format.

The obverse was designed by Raphael Maklouf. The Queen wears the King George IV State Diadem (worn during the annual State Opening of Parliament) and Diamond Jubilee drop pearl earrings.

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Fourth Portrait (1998 – 2014)

The most recognisable image of Queen Elizabeth is that designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, The Queen's head is larger than previous editions - a deliberate feature designed to acknowledge her significance in British culture.

Coins bearing the fourth portrait started out as only available in proof finish but, in 2000, the Royal Mint changed tact and resumed production of bullion Gold Sovereigns.

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To view the 2002 special edition Sovereign reverse, click here.

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To view the 2005 special edition Sovereign reverse, click here.

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To view the 2012 special edition Sovereign reverse, click here.

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Fifth Portrait (2015 – Present Day)

The most recent - and presumably final - portrait of Queen Elizabeth was introduced in 2015 and designed by the Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark. The decision to use Clark's design meant that for the first time in history a Mint employee rather than an outside artist had been used to design the monarch's image.

The fourth portrait saw the Queen wearing the same crown as the decimal second portrait, and Clark's design sees the Queen wearing the same crown and earrings as the third.

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For our full range of Gold Sovereigns please click here.

For any customer support please call us on 01 699 4396 or email us at support@bullionbypost.ie.